Photoshop 201
$24.99 $14.99

Episode Categories

How to Make Your Ideas Remarkable

Tagged with:
Jan 19

Subscribe to Phlearn

The Studium and the Punctum

Studium is the element that initially gets your attention. It can be colors, a cool background, a pose, really anything. But the punctum is what Roland describes as the thing that “pricks or bruises.” It’s that rare detail that makes the viewer feel something and pushes the photo even further. The punctum can be an object or expression on someone’s face, something you wouldn’t naturally expect that makes the image more effective.

 Today’s Episode Timeline

  • 0:20 -Roland Barthes
  • 1:35 – Defining the terms
  • 2:20 – Analyzing how Katerina Plotnikova uses this principle and more explanation
  • 7:00 – Ways to use a punctum
  • 9:30 – How it can make the image
  • 10:00 – Philosopher you

How can you can apply this to your own work?

A punctum can be anything. If you are looking for ideas try going to through a magazine and looking at random objects then adding that element into one of your photos. Consider what this object could symbolize and how it will change your image to create a narrative .

Show us some examples

Have you used this same idea without realizing it? What are some other artists that use a punctum?

  • Peter Cornelisse

    Nice one, no tricks but a basic concept of photography. Makes me want to read the book.

  • Pat Bombard

    Jeff Wall is great with Punctums. Here are some of my favorites by him.


  • Reem

    amazing episode Aaron!
    I always wondered about this topic! I think you explained it well !
    lots of useful info as usual :) I think I’ll try to create an image like that !

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    This video is great, explaining what makes an image so attractive to the eye. Finding that lil’ bit of information that subconsciously works your brain letting it know, what it is or is not, attracting them to that image.  

  • Dale Richards

    I looked at her work! My favourite is definately “Untitled”

  • Dale Richards

    My tutor has met him!

  • Even Ødegård

    This really gave me an idea to a shoot. Thanks for keep inspiering me Aron! :)

  • Dale Richards

    I had to watch this twice to understand it! But definitely a great way of looking composition!

  • janiecakes

    Aaron you are so fun.  I’m going to put some punctum in my 365 photo for today!

  • janiecakes

    I just ran across this photo on flickr.  Butterfly Punctum!

  • Tom

    Hey, This reminded me to look back over my own images and to see what I liked about them and I think the birds in the background here are my punctum (puncta?) check it out :)

  • Eric Burgers

    Excellent episode. The studium and punctum concepts seem related to the concepts of subject & predicate: where the predicate tells something about the subject in the photo, which in turn reveals the message to be told.

  • Rockerpin

    Since when french people has been smart ?! Haha just kidding, i’m french… By the way, thanks again for this awesome episode, you learned me something important i didn’t even know ! thanks thanks!

  • James Warwood

    Great image. I’d personally say the figure is more the punctum than the birds, purely as it’s a fairly wild over grown landscape. For me it’s the figure that stands out.

  • Photographybymel

    I am about to embark on a series of work that has the potential to be mundane and I have been searching for my “punctum”…. not that I knew I was searching for that but now you have put it into words for me. How cool that this episode appears when I really need it. Thanks Phlearn!

  • Colin Bridge

    Wow, great episode. I had actually not heard of Punctum and Studium in an image before. I can instantly see how this drives photographs. I guess i knew subconsciously this existed, but now I can actually see it and know what it is! You are really opening my creativity as a photographer. I struggle with my creativity and conceptualizing, but not near as much since I’ve joined the Phamily. Thank you for that. I think you should do some more “smart” episodes like this one, they are truly invaluable. And you did a great job at explaining, you explain at such a real level that most teachers can not do. Thanks again. Cant wait for my next shoot now!

  • Rodney Petrus balandong

    Aaron, about the color wheel, i just found out,there is build in adobe extension,call Kuler, you can used it,simply go to window – extension -kuler..hope this help u guys out there,save $14 for the
    MagicPicker color wheel – Anastasiy

  • Tim Piggott

    This was very thought provoking – you asked what other thing we use to make images stand out . . . I try to use either the Fibonacci proportions or overlay the Fibonacci spiral to make my composition pop! I was thrilled to see that Adobe Lightroom has this as one of it’s grid overlay option! Does that count?

  • Nina Rodriguez

    Just last week I was out shooting. I was in an open field and it was incredibly windy. I loved the pose in the photo  and being caught in the wind but I felt the original needed something else to give it some ummmfff. So I decided to add some tornados. For me it made a much better visual impact than just me being caught in the wind. Especially since tornados don’t visit Hawai’i. 

  • Hassnal Adam Sulaiman

    Love this episode a lot. More to the fact that I actually know what to call it now; Punctum!

     Used to just refer to it as ‘pop factor’ or ‘that edge thing’. haha.

    I’ve always tried to bring in something slightly out of place or something that ‘shakes the comfort zone’ a bit.

    Here’s some of my photos where i ‘try’ to bring in a bit of Punctum…

    Thank you for another great episode!

  • Anonymous

    You’re saying it right ^^

  • Anonymous

    This made so much sense! A light bulb also flashed above my head because I have seen a lot of fantastic images but never really could figure out what made the image so good, duh! Katerina Plotnikova’s work is great. This episode has definitely got me thinking.

  • Chris Stewart

    I loved this episode. You’ve put into words, something that I only had a fuzzy understanding of on my own. Thank you!

  • Anna Äärelä

    Don’t know if someone already stated this but the b&w photo you showed, can be found in color from here;

    But hey, great episode! I’m really going to use this in the future!

  • Chrstph Ekkobelli Meyer

    This is very cool. It IS quite over the top, but in this case, doesn’t matter, cos the stylistic seems more important than the need to be realistic. Like Kubrick said: Real is good, Interesting is better.

  • Pingback: Slight of Hand | Creative Challenge » Creative Dwelling

Free PRO Tutorial
Sign up for our newsletter and instantly receive a free PRO Tutorial!
Over 20,000 people
are already signed up.
Random Tips

The lens is more important than the camera, but the subject is the most important of all.